If you play for Adam Gase, there aren’t too many rules.
But there are expectations.
One of the biggest: Your phone can buzz at almost any hour of the night.
In a sport that has an almost cultist devotion to getting to the office before 6 a.m., Gase goes against the grain.
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The Dolphins’ second-year coach is, as receiver Kenny Stills put it, “a night owl.”
But he’s not at the club.
He spends the witching hours in the darkened team headquarters, often the last to lock up for the night.
“I’ve gotten a call from him or a text from him pretty late,” Stills said. “Right now, probably like 12:30 [a.m.], 1. I’m sure he’s up past that. The other coaches talk about getting text messages from him at 2:30, 3 in the morning.”
Added quarterback Matt Moore, who has gotten messages from his coach as late as 1 a.m.: “It could be any time. I don’t usually get them until the morning. He always sends something in the middle of the night, something that he thinks of that he doesn’t want to forget, so he’ll just shoot it out or whatever. He knows we’re sleeping. But he’s a grinder.”
You don’t become a head coach at age 38, as Gase did in 2016, without working harder than most everyone else on the planet.
But Gase is about more than working hard. He’s about working smart.
And that’s why he is often the last to leave, but also one of the last to arrive the following morning.
“We have a lot of lot of guys who come in really early,” Gase explained after a training camp practice. “So I was like, ‘If I’m here early, that’s where the questions sort of kind of get piled up.’ Now, coming in a little later and staying when a lot of guys leave, it kind of frees me up to where I can knock out what I need to knock out — whether it be one of the sides of the ball, front office. And then I got some time to really work on it.”
Still, Gase can spend up to 18 hours a day at the office, meaning that even if he falls asleep the moment he gets home, he’s probably still not getting enough rest, experts say.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults between the ages of 26 and 64 get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. As little as six hours “may be appropriate,” but less than that is not recommended.
Plus there’s a condition known as “sleep debt,” in which consecutive nights of two to three hours of sleep can have the same effect as pulling an all-nighter. And that’s dangerous.
“Staying up for 24 hours straight and then getting behind the wheel is like driving with a blood-alcohol content that deems you legally drunk in all 50 states,” the NSF states on its website.
Here’s the science behind it:
When we’re awake, our bodies build up a chemical called adenosine that, if not broken down by sleep, slows down your cognitive ability.
“Everybody’s built different,” Gase said. “Some people only need so many hours. I’ve been around a bunch of coaches who don’t sleep four hours, and they’re good to go. That’s how they are. It’s one of those things that you monitor and you’re watching. ‘Yeah, yeah. I know it’s not where it should be.’
“It’s a survival thing. It’s grinding. It’s part of it. Who can hang? Who can keep grinding? Figure out a way to function well. Really, the biggest thing is making sure you’re sharp on game day.”
The effects of skipping on sleep go far beyond simply sluggishness. Rest also helps take the stress off the lungs, the heart and muscles.
But when it comes to sleep, football coaches are in more debt than the federal government.
Research has found that for people chained to their office, there eventually are diminishing returns. The benefit of an extra hour of sleep becomes more valuable than an extra hour of (bleary-eyed) work.
Gase doesn’t need a doctor to tell him that.
He lived it.
In 2001, he was a low-level assistant for Nick Saban at LSU, and his duties included breaking down film of the next week’s opponent. The Tigers earned a spot in that year’s Southeastern Conference Championship Game, and knew they’d face the winner of Tennessee and Florida, who met in the regular-season finale.
The game was in Gainesville, where the Volunteers hadn’t won in three decades. Gase, like most of the outside world, assumed the Gators would win and prepared accordingly.
But Tennessee pulled off the upset, and for Gase, “it was devastating.”
Gase said: “I was going, ‘Nooooo.’ ”
Saban expected the scouting reports on his desk first thing the next morning either way, so Gase spent all night breaking down film.
The next day, “There was not much functioning going on,” Gase said.
He needs to function at a high level now. Gase is in the same division as New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, perhaps the greatest coach in NFL history, and knows he must be sharp.
That’s why he charts out a schedule like a train conductor.
Jay Cutler has known Gase since his earliest days in the NFL, and Miami’s new quarterback has gotten to know his coach’s routine.
The Dolphins insist that their players leave the complex in time to unwind and get a full eight hours of sleep, but often Cutler will work from home, particularly because he’s so new to the team.
“We FaceTime late into the night,” Cutler said. “If something pops up or if I’m not sure about something, [Gase is] always right there, and he’ll explain it.”
Coaches don’t need as much sleep as players, obviously, because their jobs aren’t as physical. But they do need good sleep, which is why Gase agreed last year to put a monitor under his bed to find out how restful he is at night.
The results were positive. He doesn’t toss and turn.
“When I go to sleep, I am down for the count,” Gase said. “Once I lay down, I’m good. But sometimes you’re constantly moving and thinking about a lot of stuff, so you just keep going until you feel like, ‘Hey, I’ve just got to lay down.’ ”
Coach: Adam Gase.
Résumé: Assistant coach for LSU, Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers. Offensive coordinator for Denver Broncos (2013-2014) and Chicago Bears (2015). Dolphins head coach since 2016.
Highlights: SEC championship with LSU in 2001, Super Bowl appearance/record-setting offense with Broncos in 2013, playoff appearance with Dolphins in 2016.
What keeps him up at night: The New England Patriots. They have been the Dolphins’ “big brother,” as Jarvis Landry put it, for a generation and should be a bully again this year.